West Virginia sees high rates of health insurance coverage - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

West Virginia sees high rates of health insurance coverage

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A new report done by Wallet Hub, a company whose motto is to focus on “financial decisions and saving money,” found only 6 percent of West Virginians do not have health insurance coverage.

Many say that is a result of both Medicaid and the Obamacare rollout, but West Virginia’s top health officials know those programs are a far cry from fixing a broken system.

Jeremiah Samples, deputy secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, said the uninsured rate in the state can be directly attributed to the success of Medicaid.

The Wallet Hub study showed 6.59 percent of the population in the Mountain State lacked health insurance. The study also showed Obamacare reduced the uninsured rate by 10.74 percentage points in one year, while about 33 percent of the population younger than 64 is currently on Medicaid.

Almost 20,000 individuals enrolled in private health insurance plans under Obamacare, experts said, while about 153,000 individuals enrolled in Medicaid between the summer of 2013 and April of 2014.

Samples said many parents were signing their children up for Medicaid.

West Virginia is the No. 1-ranked state under the categories “State Projected to See Biggest Drop in Adult Uninsured Rate” and “States with Most New Medicaid Enrollees per Capita.”

The state is ranked 46th in “States with Fewest New Net Private Insurance Enrollees per Capita.”

However, Samples cautions that the rates do not necessarily contribute to raising the already low health statistics West Virginia currently has.

“I caution folks (that) just having health insurance does not automatically translate into better health,” Samples said. “(Everyone) needs to understand how to leverage the health care system.”

Samples said better understanding the health care system means families shouldn’t go to the emergency room for something that can be treated by a primary care physician.

“The hope is we can start to turn around some of the dire health statistics we have in West Virginia,” he said. “If people don’t take personal responsibility and live healthier that impact won’t be as much.”

Samples said there is financial security that comes with having health coverage, which officials hope will allow families to work their way into the middle class.

“If we’re going to see any kind of change in population health statistics, consumers (need to be) more responsible in how they leverage their health coverage,” Samples added.

When someone is uninsured, their only option becomes to go to the emergency room, said Jane Cline, former insurance commissioner for the State of West Virginia.

Cline, currently with Spilman Thomas & Battle PLLC, said Medicaid has given access to hundreds of thousands of people.

“Part of the challenge is looking at affordability,” Cline said. “There still needs to be focus on costs associated with medical care and prescription drugs.”

With West Virginia ranking No. 1 in the prevalence of diabetes, having the second highest smoking rates in the nation and ranking in the top five in obesity, Cline said health officials want to encourage people to focus on healthier lifestyles to improve the state’s overall rankings.

 

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